Winter and how it affects butterflies

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  • #14829

    Kay
    Participant

    I live south-west of Dunedin and have several chrysalises on my swan plants but it is getting cold here now, especially at night. We have brought some of the chrysalises inside and one has "hatched" and we let the butterfly go. Should we bring the others inside and do the same? What happens if it gets too cold – will the chrysalises die before they hatch?

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  • #27443

    Clair
    Participant

    Kay, I live in Wellington, and at this time of year the weather can be rotten for days on end – and I always seem to have heaps of butterflies/cats.

    I bring everything inside and keep them in the spare room (neither heated, nor artificially lighted).

    I feed my autumn butterflies every 3 – 4 days, depending entirely on how busy I am with other things.

    When I decide it is time for feeding them, I warm up the room to get them a bit activated, feed them, and then turn the heating off. I don’t put them out until the forecast is reasonable for a few days. If I can, I take them to a known cluster position to release them hoping that will give them the best chance.

    #27441

    Kay
    Participant

    I did as Jacqui suggested and put my monarchs in a cool dark room and put them outside this morning since was warm and the forecast for next few days not good. How was I to know we would have gale force winds in Otago!! Consequently the monarchs have gone, but I don’t know if they are alive! I notice some of you feed your monarchs honey and water. How long can they survive without being fed (ie in the cool dark room as Jacqui suggested?)

    #27428

    Anna
    Participant

    medusa, I have found that some of the butterflies happily fly around in the house if the weather is horrible outside. One windowsil has a dish with honey/water for them that they feed on….till the weather is okay to let them go! I have a flowering zinnia in a pot by the window for them to feed on as well. If I dip a finger into the honey water dish, and put it in front of a butterfly it usually unfurls its tongue, and hops on.

    #27426

    medusa
    Participant

    NormTwigge, thank you for your comments, rest assured I have euthanised (frozen) a few obviously defective butterflies, I don’t believe in letting one suffer but when a butterfly is all bright and perfect, happy to feed and the weather is dreadful I am quite happy to keep them inside until they can have a go at flying away. You are probably right about ‘us humans’ interfering too much but we ‘beginners’ are so enthusiastic and every triumph gives us the confidence to try and be successful with our Monarchs. My last caterpillar has just J’d (thank heavens) I look forward to next years efforts.

    #27425

    NormTwigge
    Participant

    Hi Medusa,

    Glad to hear your male butterfly took flight, maybe it was just waiting for the conditions that suited it rather than you.
    To all – I think that sometimes we humans interfere too much in nature, after all butterflies have been around for thousands of years and have managed admirably. Nursing less than healthy butterflies to release where nature may well have seen their demise is not necessarily doing any favours, as the said butterfly will probably mate and could well be propagating offspring that are genetically inferior. Oe is a good example of this.
    Nature has a way of ensuring ‘survival of the fittest’.
    It is human ‘civilisation’ that has caused extinction of various species throughout the world, and while I support efforts to preserve butterfly populations, indeed I breed them, my opinion is that if a butterfly is less than healthy let nature take its course.

    #27420

    medusa
    Participant

    I am delighted to report that my ‘lingering’ male has flown away this morning.

    #27418

    medusa
    Participant

    But thank you for your input, it’s really appreciated.

    #27417

    medusa
    Participant

    Sorry Darren, I have been moving him around to different positions, I have had quite a few who have landed on the ground on their first ‘flight’ attempt, I have picked them up and put them back on the grapevine and they have successfully taken flight on their second attempt. (He reminds me of a teenage son who prefers being fed and fussed over)

    Yesterday I saved an emerger who’s chrysalid had dropped to the ground as it was emerging, I held it under some netting as it’s legs came out, it latched onto netting and when its wings had dried I kept it inside overnight, tagged it this morning and it flew away at midday. I was ecstatic at such a success. (I have had a few including one who had spent the night blown onto concrete in the rain overnight last friday, it flew away on sunday) I had a repeat situation today, and I fully expect my latest ‘house guest’ to fly away tomorrow. I refuse to give up too soon.

    #27415

    Darren
    Participant

    If he’s been sitting in the same spot for four days I’d say there is something seriously wrong with him. Try picking him up and tossing him into the air. If he flutters straight down to the ground that would confirm it.

    #27414

    medusa
    Participant

    What do you do with a butterfly (male) who refuses to leave ‘home’? All this weeks emergers, both male and female, have happily flown away after a wee rest in the sun but this little chap doesn’t seem to want to leave the grapevine he has been perched on for 4 days now! I’ve been feeding him honey water and he has the occasional ‘wing flutter’ but he won’t take off. He looks perfectly healthy and will feed quite happily.

    #27383

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    There’s no right or wrong, Kay. It’s entirely up to you – how much time do you have? But as I said earlier, if you leave them outdoors, there’s more risk to them not surviving due to the wet and the wind etc.

    #27382

    Kay
    Participant

    Thank you – it’s sitting on a bunch of flowers on my kitchen table now but I will put in a cooler room. Should we bring crysalises inside or leave them on the swan plant? We have brought about five inside, there are at least four more outside.

    #27381

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    That’s wonderful, Kay.

    So long as the butterflies are in “wintry” conditions, they will not need to feed. So keep them in the dark and cool (without the wind and the wet) and they should be fine until there’s a day when you do get a chance to let them outside.

    #27379

    Kay
    Participant

    A butterfly emerged today!! Wet outside and about 12 degrees but about 16 or more inside. Do I need to feed the butterfly while it is still inside? – the forecast for the next day or two is for rain. Another couple of the chrysalises we have inside look like they may “hatch” soon – we can see the wings

    #27373

    Jacqui
    Moderator

    Hi Kay

    It’s not always a given that they will die, but cold is more likely to delay their progress and adversely affect survival rates – does that make sense?

    If you do bring them inside, then you have to remember that you’re “changing” the weather, and so when the butterflies emerge they will sense that it’s actually warmer than the conditions outside. For them to then survive, you really need to replicate cool conditions (a cool, dark room) so they don’t sense it’s midsummer (when we humans are indoors we tend to like it more like summer temp’s).

    So until you get an opportunity to release the Monarchs, keep them out of the wet and wind, but in a cool, dark spot so that they “know” it’s winter – then when the weather is favourable put them in a warm, sheltered spot outdoors – i.e. out of the rain/wind and with maximum opportunity to warm up and fly away.

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